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Talk:Which name should you use?

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A choice must be made[edit]

I think the definition must make a choice. Either it is "Free Content", "Free Expression" or whatever else. Having two (allegedly) equivalent expressions doesn't cut it, it blurs the message. For example, the FSD is the Free Software Definition; there is also an Open Source Definition; there is no "Free Software and Open Source Definition". Settling on a single term sends a clear message and makes it easier to stick in people's minds.

By giving alternatives, we make it look like we don't know exactly what we want to talk about... We also make people focus on the ambiguity in the title rather than the clear message in the definition.

(I personally find "Free Content" and "Free Creation" are the two best choices, but it doesn't really matter; what matters is that a decision is made) --Antoine 01:43, 3 May 2006 (CEST)

Agree, with my vote going for "creation"(i think "free culture" is best of all, but this seems to be taken :-) My english is far from perfect, but if "free thought" has same connotations as it has in polish i would seriously consider also that JaroslawLipszyc 02:25, 3 May 2006 (CEST)
I think "free thought" is a very bad choice because thinking is not the same thing as creating works at all. Having ideas is part of the process of creating, but it is not in itself threatened by copyright (well, except clauses prohibiting analysis of DRM systems).
What is a stake is the actual process of creating and sharing works, which is much more than simply thinking and expressing ideas (which is why I also think "free expression" is bad :-)).
I'm sorry if my wording is not very clear, but it's not easy to try to explain this (especially, for me, in English). I tried a similar explanation under "things which are not works of the mind". --Antoine 02:41, 3 May 2006 (CEST)
I'm not sure we must decide for a single name. Two names seem like a reasonable compromise as it will be very hard to please everyone with a single phrase. Some prefer a term which is pragmatic and neutral ("free content"), others may prefer one which is artistic and natural ("free expression"?). "Creation" is a controversial term within the GNU/FSF world; see the Words to Avoid page on GNU. Then again, so is "content". I personally like "free content" because it is already in use with the meaning we apply to it, especially in the Wikimedia world. I would be very reluctant to give up that part.--Erik Möller 15:10, 4 May 2006 (CEST)
I think free content is probably the term that will stick: it's far from perfect (I agree with the FSF, clumping all works as a single commodity 'content' is reductive) but it's in common usage already (as is open content[1]) and it's probably the most natural sounding (which will go along way towards its wider adoption). The only problem with free content other groups define it elsewhere by other groups which might cause friction.
I think we should avoid "free expression" - while free content/software can be seen as an extension of freedom of expression/speech the reverse isn't necesarily true: you can have freedom of speech/expression without free content. It also sounds a bit grandiose. --Ricardo Gladwell 21:58, 6 May 2006 (CEST)
I agree strongly there should only be one term. Focus is very important to get the message across. I think Erik has a valid point of concern with "Free Content", but I think if you take a step back it should be very clear that "Free Expression" is a rather unfortunate pick. It has all the wrong connotations. First of all, it is already strongly occupied. But, more importantly, it is wrong. We are not interested in freeing the expressions, which are always personal and bound to the person expressing himself, but the means of expression. In this sense, "content" is also semantically inappropriate. The "correct" term is "media", which is defined on the english wikipedia site under "Media (arts)" as: "In the arts, media (plural of medium) are the materials and techniques used by an artist to produce a work." Think about oil on canvas. Is Free Media taken? What do you think?--Marcus 14:02, 7 July 2006 (CEST)

Paths of naming[edit]

The way I see it, there are two possible paths of terminology: Either we try to define one or two basic terms which encompass the largest number of works possible (as was originally the goal with "Free Content and Expression Definition"), or we define a single all-encompassing term which is, however, always instantiated to refer to a specific work. To clarify, either we just have something like:

  • Free Content
    • works of a primarily functional nature, e.g. scientific data, encyclopedias, etc.
  • Free Expression
    • works of a primarily artistic nature, e.g. music, paintings

Or we have a more complex model:

  • Free Culture
    • generic: Free Content
    • code: Free Software
    • music, paintings, etc.: Free Art
    • scientific data, publications, etc.: Free Knowledge
    • interactive play: Free Game

The definition, in this second case, could be called "Free Culture Definition", and the specific terms appropriate for certain works would be listed within it.

I'm somewhat undecided on the issue. On the one hand, I'm worried about an inflation of names. On the other, I'm worried about adoption. How does "This painting is Free Art, as per the Free Culture Definition" sound? As opposed to "This painting is a Free Expression, as per the Free Content and Expression Definition".

I note, in fact, that rough beginnings of a "Free Culture Definition" have been drafted on the Free Culture Wiki. Another opportunity to merge efforts, along with the Open Knowledge Definition?--Erik Möller 16:48, 4 May 2006 (CEST)

Free Culture UK also took a stab at a Free Culture Definition last October but ultimately they were unable to come to a consensus on what this should and should not include.--RufusPollock 8 May 2006 (thought I'd posted this 5 May 2006 but there must have been a problem)

Hi Erik,
I object to the idea that works could be inherently functional or non-functional. Nelson Goodman (a philosopher and theoretician of art) explained that we should replace the question "What is art?" with "When is art?". It means the "artistic" or "functional" aspect is related to context, not only to the work involved (i.e. is_functional(...) is not a single-argument function of the work ;-)).
This translates in concrete situations. Like Ricardo has explained, in the context of role-playing, computer games, etc., works can have a functional or artistic role depending on the situation. It is not a sophistic argument, but a concrete one.
I also want to point out that splitting into several terms defeats the whole point of writing an unified definition. It defeats our view that contents must be re-usable beyond the original intent of the author. I don't mind if the original author had a functional or artistic intent in mind, I want to be able to choose another intent for my own uses, and my own modifications to the work. This is really what an unified definition is about.
Of course, free software and free art already exist as actual movements and sets of practices and ideals. But we are trying to go further than that and provide an unified, yet clear, definition. We are trying to create our own norm, based on our own ideals, not to build a compilation of existing norms. And I'm sure some of these movements will agree with this goal (the free art movement does at least, the Free Art License people support the goal of an unified Free Content Definition).
Hope that helps :-))) --Antoine 18:07, 4 May 2006 (CEST)
Mmmh, interesting web page about Goodman's view of art. --Antoine 18:24, 4 May 2006 (CEST)
Functional vs. artistic aside, one could argue that if it was called the "Free Culture Definition", and the phrase would only occur in the context of the definition itself, while the works would always be described in more specific terms ("free art", "free software", etc.), it would be easier to arrive at a single definition that is a superset of all others, and that it would increase the likelihood of people referring to the definition itself. "This work is free X as per the Free Culture Definition" is always self-explanatory: One needs only to look up the Free Culture Definition, and it is clear what this means. "This work is free X", on the other hand, will always be ambiguous, not least because of the ambiguity of "free".--Erik Möller 18:26, 4 May 2006 (CEST)
Instead of saying "This work is free X as per the Free Culture Definition", why not just say "This X is a Free Content" or "This X is Free Culture" ("this painting is free culture", etc.)?
But I don't think it's an important issue anyway ;) --Antoine 18:48, 4 May 2006 (CEST)
The above distinction between 'Free Content' as functional works and 'Free Expression' as artistic works in my view makes no sense. It requires subjective judgments - one person's function can be another's art. Where would, for example, a history book fall? History is a form of storytelling but does contain many facts such as an encyclopedia. Also, sculptural works may serve both functional and aesthetic purposes. I also don't think one needs an umbrella term which then gets broken down into sub-categories. Those sub-categories can then be the subject of further debate & disagreements as to what free per. art means. Isn't the point of this exercise to define "free" as applied to cultural works once & for all? In this case, the relevant statement is "This work is free per the Free X Definition." I am in favour of calling it a "Free Content" Definition. Expression is the activity. Content is the result and is broadly encompassing of a variety of different forms of expression. --Mia 13:21, 7 May 2006 (PDT)
I'd have to agree with Mia in that I find it particularly problematic to propose a dichotomy between artistic and functional works, and the examples that demonstrate the difficulty in doing so are plentiful. I also agree that in the interest of unity and simplicity, it makes sense to go with a single term that would hopefully stick. I'm personally not crazy about the term "content" for the various reasons elaborated above, but then again, if we don't like the use of the word, why not take it back and modify the meaning to something we do like? All in all, if we are looking to build a movement and not just a definition, I think we'll need a single, unified concept to do so. Furthermore, to separate "artistic" from "functional" works appears to single out different classes of works that I think it would be to our benefit, despite the seemingly overarching nature, to group together.--Elizabeth stark 08:24, 8 May 2006 (CEST)


RufusPollock 8 May 2006 (thought I'd posted this 5 May 2006 but there must have been a problem):

My 2 cents (see also previous discussion related to merging of FCED and Open Knowledge Definition Open Knowledge Definition):

  1. Expression should be left out (inherently more complex and more controversial to define free expression than free content/open knowledge)
  2. 'Free' vs. 'Open'. This is an old chestnut that can lead to a lot of debate without any resolution. In my experience 'open' has been easier to use (hence the 'Open Knowledge Foundation') as there is no confusion between 'libre' and 'gratuit'. Also, at least outside software (and perhaps content), most talk is of 'open' e.g. open geodata, open access, open data etc. However I believe this a moot point and Erik's suggestion to go with something like 'Free Content and Open Knowledge Definition' might be an easy way to cover both bases.
    1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_content and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_content
  3. Content vs. Knowledge: content is generally used to denote creative works (articles/music/film/). It is very rarely used to denote other types of knowledge such as data collections, maps etc. Thus if the aim is to focus the definition on 'content' that is what should be used but if one would like to be a bit more general I would suggest inclusion/use of a term such as 'knowledge'
    1. My view on this is that the *principles* that we are seeking to lay down have enough general applicability that it is worth drawing that out. At the same time I believe that it is essential that the promotional effort around these principles, i.e. to have them adopted as community 'norms' or 'guidelines', *must* be tailored to the concerns and interests of the specific constituency at hand. This 'tailoring' may involve some alteration/additions to the general principles but, as stated, I believe that these principles have immediate general applicability and so such alterations will likely be quite small (the big changes will be in such things as examples used, elucidatory comments etc etc.)

Overall I think we want to go with either:

  • Free Content and Open Knowledge Definition (broader)
  • Free Content Definition or Open Content Definition (narrower)

--RufusPollock 8 May 2006


I like the idea of saying "This work is free X as per the Free Culture Definition". It allows people to call their own content/art/game/whatever by whichever term they prefer, but providing a broader framework, "free culture", which hopefully people from those different fields can agree covers their work as well as other forms of expression. It doesn't mean the definition is suggesting a dichotomy between artistic and functional works, but allows creators of those works to define their own work in that way if they want to. It seems a good compromise to prevent people who disagree with the term "content" rejecting this form of the definition. We can have the term "free culture" without preventing people who are used to using the term "free content" from continuing to do that. Angela Beesley 14:50, 8 May 2006 (CEST)

I tend to be partial to "Free Culture Definition" as well for various reasons, the most important being that "Free Culture" is a) reasonably unique, b) a term nobody seems to have any objections to. I'm seeing a few objections to "Free Expression", so that part of the name will probably have to go in any case. I'm going to prepare a draft set of poll options so we can start making some progress towards a resolution.--Erik Möller 00:50, 10 May 2006 (CEST)
I have to ask if "Free Culture" wouldn't entail a confusion with Lawrence Lessig's book? I did not read this book, but I don't think he would specifically advocate contents which follow the freedoms we are proposing. Not to mention that the book itself is published under a non-commercial license!
Also, "free culture" implies "free downloading of existing works" for me. Culture refers to the consumption of already produced works of art, rather than the act of creation itself. AFAIK it is the traditionnally admitted difference between culture and art. (you can replace "art" with the more general "content creation" of course) --Antoine 03:30, 10 May 2006 (CEST)
(OTOH, choosing the same name as Lessig's book may be an interesting way to change its message a posteriori ;-)) --Antoine 03:38, 10 May 2006 (CEST)
"Free Culture" and "Free Culture Definition" are not the same, so we do not have to really worry about it. However it is politically sensitive matter, and we should communicate both with Lessig and Free Culture Movement ( freeculture.org ). I do not think anybody will oppose this initiative, and this is a good time to merge efforts, so this name could be great tool for unified position to defend minimum freedoms. "Free Culture Definition" is the best name we can work out anyway. JaroslawLipszyc 14:03, 10 May 2006 (CEST)
I've emailed Larry about it, Elizabeth from FreeCulture is one of the moderators, so I hope she will tell us if choosing this name would be a problem. Given that their first stab at a Free Culture Definition parallels much of our thinking here, I think the bigger question is whether we can arrive at a definition that will be shared by this initiative. As for the book, perhaps we can get Larry to relicense it. ;-) Regarding Antoine's point that "culture refers to the consumption .. rather than the act of creation", I would make the opposing point that "Free Culture" is much less ambiguous about our principles and philosophy than any other term that has been suggested. Just a few days ago I was talking to someone who is even familiar with this very definition, and I used the phrase "free content". They immediately assumed that I was talking about freely downloadable works, rather than works under free content licenses. If someone who understands and believes in our philosophy ends up being confused by the free/free ambiguity, choosing a term which is not that strongly ambiguous seems reasonable to me.
Essentially, I hope that "free as in free culture" will become a catchphrase similar to "free as in free speech" (which is what the FSF and other groups currently use to disambiguate "free software"). The latter has the problem of carrying its own ambiguities, that is, if you explain that a scientific paper is "free as in speech", people are likely to be none the wiser, and a "Free Speech Definition" wouldn't make much sense.
I see that participation on the wiki has waned a bit in the last few days. Perhaps we can get this over with without a poll.--Erik Möller 02:15, 15 May 2006 (CEST)
Looks like it's not going to be quite that simple. Lessig strongly feels that the existing "Free Culture" movement is more inclusive than our definition. That essentially leaves us with three meanings of the word "free". "Free of charge", "free as the Free Software Definition" and "free as all the Creative Commons licenses taken together". I find it really difficult to see a mutually agreeable solution here, except for making up a completely new term or using a word like "libre" in place of "free".--Erik Möller 09:12, 15 May 2006 (CEST)

Perhaps we've been trying too hard[edit]

My e-mail exchange with Larry Lessig showed me that there will be a lot of disagreements in the future within the broad movement he describes as "Free Culture" (Creative Commons, Open Access, etc.). For instance, I think Lessig and those who think like him will often push for any change of license, away from traditional copyright, and be happy even with something like CC-NC-ND, which most people here consider a rather non-free license. For them, it's "Mission Accomplished", for us, it's only one step towards freedom.

My goal with the definition was, first of all, to clearly describe a set of works and licenses that meet the highest standard of freedom. Benjamin convinced me that it is necessary to create a movement around that standard of freedom. He had registered freedomcommons.org for that purpose a while ago, but now we have been trying to unite both goals under the same roof. That puts us at odds with people like Lessig, who do not share our strong belief in the necessity of truly free content. This is not good, because I would like Lessig to adopt the FCD and its logo in order to classify CC licenses.

Perhaps we've been trying too hard to solve both problems at the same time. For instance, we chose "Free Content and Expression Definition" as the initial name because we felt that "Free Content Definition" alone might not have a strong enough appeal to artists. But then again, could we ever come up with a general term that will appeal to anyone? I doubt it. I think most people will always refer to their work in specific terms like "Free Music", "Free Software", "Free Art", "Free Knowledge". What we can achieve here is to try to strongly associate the "Free" in those phrases with our concept of freedom and to provide a single definition that describes that concept.

Given that "Free Culture" is already used, at least by Lessig, for something very different from our principles of freedom, I think that simply calling it the "Free Content Definition" might be the best solution. We could also de-emphasize the morally normative parts of the definition a bit and turn it into more of a technical document. Then, a separate site could be set up (and I am very much on board if we do that) to create a movement that uses this definition as a basis.

This movement could come up with a completely new name for itself, since it does not exist yet in clearly identifiable form. For instance, it could be called the "Libre Culture" movement to distinguish it from the "Free Culture" crowd. And in its propaganda, it would use whatever term has the strongest appeal to a specific target audience: Free Knowledge, Free Software, Free Art, Free Games, etc. The general FCD would always be referred to in order to clarify what we mean by these terms.

The portals, I think, would be better placed on the movement site than on this one. This site would only contain the definition, a FAQ, some explanations, and a list of licenses. It would be a reference point, nothing more. This would also nicely parallel the Creative Commons work on a "Commons Content Definition". Thoughts?--Erik Möller 15:24, 19 May 2006 (CEST)

I agree that we should probably use FCD and keep this site as a minimalist definition with FAQ. I have some other questions:
  1. How exactly does the Free Culture definition differ from the FCD, according to Lessig?
  2. What is Benjamin's intention for freedomcommons.org? I assume it will be an FCD version of the creative commons?
  3. What is the Commons Content Definition and do you have any links to this project?
Thanks for you attention. --Ricardo Gladwell 12:13, 20 May 2006 (CEST)
Lessig sent me a draft copy privately which I'm not yet privileged to share. It's very similar to the FCD except that its standard of freedom is significantly lower to include licenses like NC and NC-ND.--Erik Möller 06:55, 21 May 2006 (CEST)
Hi Erik,
I'm not sure what you mean by "deemphasizing" the morally normative part. I think it is very important that we explain why this definition exists and what the moral intent (or ethical, philosophical, etc.) there is behind it. Only computer geeks like us care about purely technical documents ;)
If you look at the FSF web site, there are lots of texts explaining the intended philosophy of free software, and it's why people adhere to the Free Software Definition: because there is a clear set of values that they can share and understand.
As for the name, I think we should first wait for Elizabeth to give her thoughts about using "Free Culture". I'm not sure Lawrence Lessig even gave a definition of "Free Culture"... did he? For now let's say we have three alternatives : "Free Culture D.", "Free Content D.", "Libre Culture D.".
As for Creative Commons refering to the Definition, at least it seems they want to adopt a color code (see [2]). It is a first step, afterwards it will be easy for us to point out that the "green licenses" are those which are free according to the Definition.
I do agree that building a movement can come after the Definition proper. Also, we probably must think about what ways to adopt in order to build this movement (unless you've already thought about it!). Lots of scattered movements already exist (free software, open source, free art, free roleplaying, various CC sub-movements...). Our goal is to unify, or at least make people aware that their communities implicitly participate in something bigger.
I'm not sure choosing two different names (one for the definition, one for the movement) is a very good thing. There are already lots of names floating around (creative commons, open access, free art, free software, open source, open content, open knowledge...), let's try not to complicate things further ;)
--Antoine 19:57, 20 May 2006 (CEST)
Unless the freeculture.org people strongly share our position, I'd prefer to avoid open confrontation with Lessig and CC on the term "Free Culture". And, to some extent, I agree with him that it makes sense to have a term to describe a larger set of people who at least agree about some minimums (e.g. that non-commercial sharing is generally acceptable). I don't much like the fact that "Free Culture" is likely to be that term because we use "Free" very differently. Unfortunately, this free/free split seems to be inevitable at this point.
I agree, of course, about unifying the movement. In essence, we need a site which in some ways mirrors what the creativecommons.org people have been doing (license chooser, weblog, metadata, etc.), while embracing existing communities by prominently linking to them (FLOSS, Wikimedia, etc.). I think that we can keep this site around essentially for "experts" and interested amateurs to work out the specifics of the FCD and the licenses, while having a broad community site which only makes use of that resource.--Erik Möller 06:55, 21 May 2006 (CEST)